Black Lightning Series Premiere “The Resurrection” Review
***Potential Spoilers Beware***
Of all the DC/CW live-action series, I don’t think I’ve anticipated a premiere as much as this one. These shows have done well with representation, but at the end of the day you weren’t seeing a show where they really wanted to put focus on someone who is a person of color. We are given this impression that nothing is really off-limits here and this is not a hero you should sleep on if you want one that is unapologetic towards addressing the corruption and bigotry in the world. I appreciate that they are giving some of us this opportunity to get to know this hero even though it is safe to assume that Black Lightning isn’t a hero most people are familiar with. Especially when you have someone like Static Shock out there whose powers share the same element and has had bigger exposure through a successful animated series.
My first exposure to Black Lightning was actually not too long ago through DC’s mini series Black Lightning: Cold Dead Hands. This is a book where he’s returning after a two-year break, though this is an interesting contrast where Jefferson Pierce in this show actually retired from being Black Lightning nine years ago after seeing the effects it had on his family. The book version is also updated where this version of Jefferson doesn’t have two daughters either. There are some solid differences as well, but they keep this story for the CW show very close to the source material in terms of the core values of this character.
Jefferson Pierce is a character we got to know from the beginning. A father with two daughters and a strong moral compass. The big thing here was separating that man, and the one who is Black Lightning. Especially when it came to the anger that builds up within him for everything wrong and unjust going on around him. Those nine months retired you could see creating a conflict within him when the last thing he wanted was the need to use his powers. I think they have nailed the idea that not everybody puts on the suit willingly. He has a lot to protect, but that also means so much more to lose in the process. It was different for me to see him as a principal rather than a teacher. He is more distinguished and has a more active role in protecting his students. That automatically creates a position he is put into where it is harder to do one thing without jeopardizing the other.
The daughters were a point of interest. Just your regular siblings of a back family with their own drama and problems to add to whatever Pierce has to deal with. Much of this first episode is getting to know them, well maybe one of them more than the other. The sister that would become the reason for Black Lightning making a reluctant return. Through Jennifer at the very least we get that chilling experience of what happens when you deal with the The One Hundred gang. Anissa on the other hand I enjoyed thoroughly because she spoke with a voice that most of us carry when we talk about like I can already tell that it is going to take some time to warm up to Jennifer and Anissa, but that will come with time. It goes without saying that it is something we have to also get used to when the main character is a father with grown kids. I would rather take that over the cliche of teen rebellion.
What forces Pierce to become a hero again in this show, is when the rise of the local gang The One Hundred leads to increased crime and corruption in his community. From the start of the first episode they were quick to establishing the state of this city and the troubles that come with The One Hundred gang. It was refreshing to see a city where the danger wasn’t the metahuman of the week, assassins, ninjas and so forth. These are real dangers people face when drugs and guns are involved. I knew they wouldn’t pull the punches with the fear that comes with them or even Tobias Whale, but that still didn’t make it any easier to experience that harsh reality. However, seeing Pierce in action was the highlight of this hour. For a show like Black Lightning, the effects do matter. I was more impressed by the first few times he used his powers than most of the times when The Flash went flinging his lightning. Not to mention they displayed a fair bit of ways that he can apply this power without directly shocking people.
Now there was only one thing that came into question about this show, and that was their approach to the costume that is more textured, weighted, and geared up. I think the only fear I really had was that his powers would come from the suit rather than him having the powers himself. You can never be too sure when they adapt these kind of heroes to tv/movies because grounding can tend to have a different definition to some. Luckily not the case and that made Pierce more intense when he got in that mood.
Something else you enjoy about the opportunity to experience a hero like Black Lightning is the street-level approach. That is something you never take for granted when so many popular heroes are out there worrying about the next extinction-level event or end of the world situation.When it comes to your average CW or “Arrowverse” show, they tend to get too wrapped up in worrying about protecting their city. Not enough time worrying about the people. I felt a stronger sense of engagement when Pierce talks about his people as a community. That is not a word you see nearly enough when addressing the very people you are protecting.
The Black Lightning series premiere “The Resurrection” felt like a winner to me breathing life into this reluctant hero who cares about the civilians, the neighbors, the students in Jefferson Pierce’s case, and the real-world issues that we all deal with every day when we step outside of our houses. I know that there will be some people out there who will try to say this was boring or too politically correct for addressing street issues, but this is clearly not the show for them if that is the case.